Nothing was expected from the Kansas City Royals this season.
Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory used his ZiPS projection system to predict the records of each MLB team this year and had the Royals finishing 69-93, which tied the Astros for the worst record in baseball.
Even a Royals team executive suggested, according to a story in ESPN the Magazine by Tim Keown, that Royals should put a billboard up reading: Get Your Jokes in Now.
Because while much wasn’t expected from the big league club this season, it’s a different story down on the farm.
Baseball America ranked the Royals farm system as the best in baseball and had nine Royals’ minor leaguers in its top 100 prospects, a new record. Three of those players, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Wil Myers, ranked No. 8, 9 and 10, respectively.
And it’s not as if the young guns are far away, either. Moustakas and Hosmer, along with pitchers Mike Montgomery (No. 19 on the BA Top 100 list) and Danny Duffy (68) are all on the Royals AAA team, the Omaha Storm Chasers. Moustakas likely will be up in Kansas City by June, while the other three could be up later in the second half of the season. Myers, pitchers John Lamb (18) and Chris Dwyer (81) and second baseman Christian Colon (51) are at Northwest Arkansas, the Royals’ Double-A affiliate.
That’s what this season was supposed to be about. Waiting to see the future, a future that many predict could bring championships back to a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since it’s last World Series title in 1985.
But a funny thing has happened so far this season. The Royals are winning. With Sunday’s 9-5 win over Detroit, Kansas City is 6-3 and in second place in the division. And not only are the Royals winning, they are doing it in exciting fashion, as the team’s first four victories were all walkoff wins.
Yes, it’s early. The team isn’t likely to get many more pitching gems from Bruce Chen (Six innings, no runs, three hits on Saturday) or 4-for-4 days at the plate from Wilson Betemit.
And likely every team, even the worst ones, will have a stretch where it wins six of nine games. The Royals’ success right now is only magnified because of when it’s occurring.
But even if the Royals come back down to the level most expected them to soon, their hot start has made the wait for their fans shorter. While the fan base is celebrating these wins, they are also one day closer to Moustakas making his big league debut at the hot corner, one day closer to Hosmer hitting his first major league homer and one day closer to Montgomery pitching his first shutout.
So while the Royals’ hot start may be a mirage, Kansas City fans should get used to what it feels like to be near the top of standings. Because in the not-so-distant future, the Royals will be a fixture at the top and a team that no one will be laughing at anymore.
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Written by Ryan Riordan